Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 261–271 | Cite as

Signs of Resistance: Peer Learning of Sign Languages Within ‘Oral’ Schools for the Deaf

  • Hannah Anglin-Jaffe


This article explores the role of the Deaf child as peer educator. In schools where sign languages were banned, Deaf children became the educators of their Deaf peers in a number of contexts worldwide. This paper analyses how this peer education of sign language worked in context by drawing on two examples from boarding schools for the deaf in Nicaragua and Thailand. The argument is advanced that these practices constituted a child-led oppositional pedagogy. A connection is drawn to Freire’s (1972) theory of critical pedagogy. Deaf children’s actions as peer educators are framed as an act of resistance towards the oppression of their language and culture. A contrast is drawn between oralist pedagogy that is historically associated with punitive practices and didactic methods and the experiential and dialogic interaction that characterised peer learning of sign languages. The argument is made that the peer teaching and learning processes enabled the self-actualisation of the Deaf children whereas the oralist methods were based on a deficit model that focused on modifying deaf children according to the norms of hearing society. The implications of this for current policy and practice are inferred to be about access to sign languages and the importance of Deaf communities in deaf children’s education. The argument is made that space needs to be created for deaf children to engage in peer learning.


Deaf Sign language Peer learning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ExeterDevonUK

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